The 151,000-square-foot Phil Bryant Medical Education Building at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

A federal judge has ruled in favor of the University of Mississippi Medical Center over litigation against three former employees who stole patient medical records for their own use and then lied about possessing them for years. 

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Oct. 8 issued a default judgment in the federal trade secrets lawsuit, saying the defendants’ “clear, persistent pattern of perjury, evidence destruction, and concealment” warranted the default judgment. 

The case centers around Dr. Spencer Sullivan, who UMMC hired in July 2014 to head its Hemophilia Treatment Center. As part of his employment, Sullivan agreed to refrain from taking or using patient information for his own benefit, including soliciting patients for his own independent practice. However, in January 2016, Sullivan began arranging to start his own for-profit hemophilia clinic and pharmacy.

Over the course of the next few months, Sullivan coordinated with other UMMC staff —namely co-defendants Linnea McMillan and Kathryn Sue Stevens — to prepare for the new clinic’s opening. This included compiling UMMC patient records into a spreadsheet they called “the List.” This spreadsheet included patients’ birthdate, diagnosis, prescriptions, dose and frequency, insurance, pharmacy and home and mobile telephone numbers. 

Sullivan resigned from his position at UMMC in June 2016, and then used the records stolen from UMMC to solicit these patients to continue their treatment at Sullivan’s new clinic in Madison called Mississippi Center for Advanced Medicine. Sullivan recruited at least 20 UMMC employees to work for him at his new clinic, and the majority of UMMC’s hemophilia patients followed their physicians to his clinic. 

During the course of both state and federal lawsuits brought on by UMMC, Sullivan, McMillan and Stevens lied multiple times under oath, denying they had ever taken the patient records from UMMC. The existence of “the List” came out following a 2018 Clarion-Ledger article. After reading the article, defendant Linnea McMillan’s ex-husband, Aubrey McMillan, provided UMMC’s legal counselwith a copy of “the List” he found in his ex-wife’s car.

All three defendants continued to deny taking or possessing “the List” until March 2020, when Harris admitted to lying in her deposition and produced 1,469 pages of text messages sent by herself and fellow defendants that revealed they had conspired to shred the stolen documents, violating the clinic’s policy against destroying patient information. 

Sullivan also committed perjury multiple times, and as recently as April 2021, by denying he possessed a hard drive containing files and emails from UMMC. He only admitted possessing the files on a hard drive and a thumb drive after a Magistrate Judge forced him to choose between producing the hard drives or his computer.

“Defendants’ lies and evasions, particularly Dr. Sullivan’s recent conduct in relation to the long-sought hard drives, suggest that nothing less than the full exercise of this court’s inherent power will command the defendants’ respect for the judicial process, or secure their commitment to telling this court the truth,” Reeves wrote. 

With a default judgment issued, a trial on damages will now take place on the date previously set for jury trial on Feb. 16, 2022.

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Will Stribling covered healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.